Jan 15, 2019 - Economy

Tyson CFO on fighting competitors and a trade war

Data: Money.net; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Money.net; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tyson Foods is feeling the pain from the trade war and a volatile agricultural market that’s seen meat prices crater.

Why it matters: Tyson, the largest meat processor in the world — home to brands like Hillshire Farms, Jimmy Dean and Ball Park — has been particularly squeezed by the uncertainty of tariffs, plus the meat industry's growing reliance on exports from Mexico and China, two countries Trump has targeted since declaring his candidacy.

  • Shares of Tyson fell more than 25% in the past year as the U.S.-China trade war got underway, and are down 18% since Election Day 2016. The S&P has fallen about 5% as the trade war has rolled along, but is up 21% since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency.

Still, Tyson CFO Stewart Glendinning tells Axios he thinks the market's view of his company is short-sighted.

  • "I don't think the street appreciates the power of our prepared foods business," Glendinning said. "This business is a high-margin business. It's very different than some of the more commodity-type businesses. It's winning against competitors."

Background: The company slashed its full-year profit forecasts last July, thanks to China and Mexico's retaliatory tariffs on beef, chicken and pork imports. In the most recent quarter, executives warned that consumers were choosing lower-priced beef and pork over chicken.

Yes, but: Things could be turning for the company. Mexico and Canada have signed off on USMCA (aka new NAFTA), but it's yet to be passed by Congress. Meantime, talks between China and the U.S. are ongoing and an escalation of tariffs has been delayed.

What to watch: "There will be more pressure on chicken and pork," Glendinning said. "But other parts of the business like prepared foods are less susceptible to commodity swings."

Go deeper: Tyson in talks to purchase Keystone Foods

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